By a unanimous vote at the June meeting, the Emery County Public Lands Council approved a motion to develop a county wide land use plan and federal legislation which would finalize wilderness designation and solidify county positions regarding other land use issues, including motorized recreation, livestock grazing and oil and gas development.
The intent of the plan is to preserve the historic resource uses and also to determine the extent of wilderness designation within the county. A similar bill in Washington County was passed recently and officials who put that plan together are optimistic that other counties in Utah could benefit from similar legislation. Emery County ran two bills in 1998 and 2000 that failed to be enacted for various reasons. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance recently introduced its current version of America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, which proposes the designation of more than 1 million acres of wilderness in Emery County and 9.4 million acres of wilderness in Utah.
The public lands council will hold a series of meetings to garner public input. Bruce Wilson, public lands council chairman will develop a number of subcommittees and assign each public lands council member to be in charge of a different area of concern including grazing, oil and gas exploration, roads and transportation issues, water issues and several other land use areas of concern. Many of the concerns to be addressed are areas identified in the Price Resource Management plan which is under litigation by SUWA and other environmental groups.
The meetings will serve as education for the public as to what the lands council will be pursuing. There are common misconceptions on what activities are allowed in wilderness designations. One idea the council would like public opinion on is the possibility of recommending the current Wilderness Study Areas as wilderness. The WSAs have been managed as wilderness since 1983.
The council would like all grazing rights and transportation through such areas to be left intact.
The council feels they would like to guide the public lands use processes in the county instead of being driven by outside agencies and organizations.